Saturday Morning Message: Priority Changes That Celebrate the Life

Author: Carol Lane

Good Morning,

Many survivors look for something to celebrate the lives of their loved one that they might not have done or they shift the way they look at things after a loved one dies. Today we share some ideas that others have tried. Please feel free to try the ones that interest you. 

Flower

  • Going to an event that like a TAPS seminar or retreat would be something that is different from regular travel. Being around others who have experienced a similar loss, and talking about your loved one or sitting and crying or laughing without anyone judging is such a healing thing to do.
  • If you like to garden, Christi Larsen, a survivor, created an annual garden tour in her area after a foundation was created for her son, PFC Cole William Larsen. Tours of local gardens are taken and the money collected goes to support events that are close to the Larsens' hearts.  For more information visit TAPS Magazine article "A Garden Spade Can Help Heal.
  • Personally, I found that relating with others who have suffered the loss of someone loved was healing and something that I wanted to continue. I wanted to stay in touch weekly, so we could gain strength from each other...and the Saturday Morning Message was born. I look forward to turning on the computer each day to see an email message from one of you. It brings a smile and warms my heart.

I hope that you find comfort in the other ways survivors have found to celebrate the lives of their loved ones as you read the suggestions that were sent in this week.

Next week, let us share ideas on: What you do to comfort yourself when a hard day comes along? We all have those difficult times. When we share what works for us, it may help someone else. I look forward to reading your responses.

I would love to hear from you anytime about anything. Sometimes just writing to someone is helpful. If you have a question that you would like to see in the Saturday Message or to send a reply to this week's question, you may click reply to this message or email me at online@taps.org.

From Martha, surviving mother of Tracy: The biggest change in my life since losing my beautiful daughter is the realization that our thoughts, speech and actions are largely based on two emotions: love and fear. Tracy once told me that she understood something I said because she realized I was afraid. It wasn't until recently that I understood how much of my past life (and some of my current life) was based on fear. Almost every negative emotion, including jealousy and anger, is motivated by fear. Now I am trying harder to come from a place of love instead of fear and I am finding it makes a huge difference -- this one change in attitude has bettered my life and the lives of those around me. I feel like I am honoring my darling daughter's wisdom by applying this understanding to my life every day.

From Mary-Ann, surviving mother of Blake: Things have evolved in the three years in the area of celebrating the life of our Blake. We have tried several things that have been recommended. Some have worked for us; some haven't. The first year is a blur, but I do remember having a "Salute Our Sailor" on the anniversary of Blake's death. We basically had a cover dish type luncheon out in the yard. Family and some of Blake's closest childhood friends were invited. Even though we had a good showing we (the immediate family) felt that was hard on us, so we haven't done it again.

Things that worked for the family: We offer masses for him on holidays and the anniversary of his death. Year two we had a meal together with only our other children and their families. We started putting up a table of past Christmas pictures of Blake with a remembrance candle for the Christmas holiday. We used an end table in our living room just big enough to let us have him as part of our family, still loved and thought of often. We set up a scholarship fund in his name and at almost the three year mark we had a run to earn money for the fund. It was a lot of work, but it helped me with my focus on the run to do good for others. In fact it seemed to help us all. I think this will be the biggest thing we'll do each year, but who knows since we're still trying to adjust to our new norm. We all knew Blake was big on physical fitness so it seemed to be the way to go!

From Rosemary, surviving spouse of Troy: When he was here I used to bake a cake for his birthday and cook for his party, but we only celebrated with family. That was how he wanted to celebrate his birthday. Now, we have mass for his birthday and the kids and I go out to eat. Then I take them shopping.

From Leslie, surviving mother of Eugene: Many things changed after Eugene's death. I bragged about his promotions and what he was doing with his life...bought a house and found love prior to his passing. Now I tell stories about him; his antics, his medals from the Navy, organ donation and the like. I do this to keep him alive. It's helpful to my family and friends who try not to speak of him because they believe I will cry or be angry. So when I begin the stories we all relax and usually have good laugh. Gene stays with us on a different level.

From Deb, surviving mother of Beth: "Beth, you are going to change the world." That is what we always told her. Now we are trying to make a change in the lives of people, one person at a time. 

Beth loved the school she went to- SUNY Maritime College. Because this is a state college, students, unless they are awarded scholarships, pay tuition for a trimester school (school is year round). We have a yearly award for a female student in the regiment and hopefully is in a Marine Environmental Science program. We always receive thank you letters but the letter received last year was especially moving. The student was a senior. Her single mother had just died two months earlier and the student was an only child. Her mother did not have a life insurance policy. She thanked us because she was able to make a substantial payment on her mother's funeral which meant she did not have to leave school for a job with only one semester remaining. So that small award allowed her to graduate from school (BTW she graduated as valedictorian and she was a Marine Environmental major).

Growing up Beth would often join us in community service projects. Each year we sponsor the local soup kitchen for Beth's birthday.

Beth loved to run. So each year we fully sponsor four ROTC midshipmen from her alma mater who wear her picture as they run the Marine Corp Marathon. We are there to cheer them on. Each year the runners have told us that as they are becoming tired and hurting and discouraged during the marathon they suddenly feel a 'push' from within and they realize they are running the steps that Beth can no longer run herself and the feeling becomes very powerful.

Beth loved to read. Her favorite both in books and movies was the Harry Potter series. Unfortunately she died before the final books were released. There is a Harry Potter window in our local library and it is dedicated in her memory.

As often happens after the traumatic death of a child, I could no longer continue working at my job as a bedside nurse. Between getting emotionally involved with the devastating diagnoses my patients faced and caring for patients who recognized our family name (thus asking me to talk about Beth's death) or actually knew Beth through their children and grandchildren, I was unable to continue at the bedside. I took a job as an advocate for my profession which meant a significant cut in pay to a job that requires even more hours. But I feel this is my way to 'change the world' for Beth in my own way. Trying to ensure safety and respect for nurses is now my daily work.

The Saturday Morning Message (SMM) is a weekly communication; written and contributed to by survivors. The primary focus of the SMM is to foster peer based connection, survivors helping survivors, for support and encouragement along the grief journey. It is the goal of this communication to foster a safe, supportive atmosphere where we can openly share in a non-judgmental and caring manner. Read and contribute as you are comfortable, and explore any opinions/ideas shared that are most beneficial to you on your individual journey. Content submitted for inclusion in the SMM is edited for spacing considerations and grammatical corrections.

If you ever need to speak to someone regarding an urgent matter or just need a listening ear, the loving family at TAPS is available to you 24 hours a day. Please feel free to contact TAPS at 1-800-959-8277.